Justice Minister Shozaburo Nakamura said Friday that he has instructed ministry bureaucrats to revise the immigration law to toughen penalties against foreigners who have entered Japan illegally.In a regular news conference, Nakamura said he wants the Immigration Control and Refugee-Recognition Law to be changed so those who have entered Japan illegally will still be subject to criminal penalties three years after their entry.Currently, such people face a maximum of three years in prison and fines of up to 300,000 yen on condition they are caught within the three years of entry, due to a statue of limitations clause under the Code of Criminal Procedure.The immigration authorities can issue a deportation order against such people even after the three-year period, but Nakamura said deportation alone is not tough enough. “Making an illegal entry into the country is a crime,” Nakamura told a news conference. “But if they stay here for three years, they are automatically spared penalties. They walk out free, and the only thing we can say now is ‘please go home.'”Nakamura said that he wants the bill to be submitted to the next Diet session, which starts in January. The minister indicated, however, that the revision will not affect asylum seekers forced to flee their countries and enter Japan by illegal means because of domestic emergencies.

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